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Archbishop breaks his silence

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 by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The head of the island's Catholic church is breaking his silence revealing more information as to why he removed Monsignor James Benavente from his duties within the Archdiocese of Agana.

It's clearly a church divided.

"We are losing confidence and trust in his leadership," said parishioner Andy Balajadia. "I hope that by praying, he will change."

Concerned Catholics in Guam united in prayer this week concerned about a series of events that have been occurred in the Archdiocese of Agana. Most recently the sudden removal of Monsignor Benavente as the rector for the Cathedral Basilica and director of the Catholic Cemeteries his termination came just one week after the church celebrated his 20-year anniversary. Tommy Tanaka said, "What the archbishop is doing is providing division not only with the shepherd, but also the flock."

Earlier this week Archbishop Anthony Apuron through a press release said that based on the findings of a recent audit he decided that a change in administration was necessary and urgent to re-establish proper accounting practices, complete a financial review, financial report and an audit. According to His Excellency, an audit conducted by Deloitte & Touche revealed the Cathedral and Catholic Cemeteries have about $7 million in indebtedness. He added the firm determined the accounting practices, especially in the Catholic Cemeteries, are "inappropriate" and that an audit is not possible until appropriate accounting has been re-established in the Catholic Cemeteries of Guam.

Today the archbishop issued another press release detailing more information from the audit about "significant accounting deficiencies in the Catholic Cemeteries of Guam, Inc.". Auditors found that the Catholic Cemeteries had incorrectly included it its assets land which was not in its own name, thus overstating its assets and using this property to secure a loan, the audit found that construction costs were duplicated incorrectly overstating its assets by $3.8 million and that the construction contracts needed to verify the exact costs were missing.

More than seven months after the report, those documents haven't been produced.

Other deficiencies found were that the accounting is not in conformance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

The archbishop said that given the gravity of the situation he was compelled to take urgent measures changing administration in order to end this state of affairs which is detrimental to the archdiocese.

He closed stating let us begin all together the process of renewal, reconciliation, reordering and moving forward. But could it be too late for the island's faithful who question his actions?

"We Catholics want peace and want our church together," Balajadia stated.


Although the archbishop noted he was taking urgent measures, the letter from the auditors citing the deficiencies was sent at the beginning of the year.

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